Cancer Patients May Face Higher Bankruptcy Odds

Washington state study found a nearly tripled risk, with younger adults most vulnerable

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  • Bankruptcy rates were highest for people with the diagnosis of thyroid and lung cancer, and lowest for melanoma, breast and prostate cancer. The authors suggested that the higher rate of bankruptcy associated with thyroid cancer was likely due to the fact that it affects younger women more often than do other cancers.
  • The study, based on data from 1995 to 2009, did not take into account the potential impact of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, an expert pointed out.

    "The problem of bankruptcy was one thing the ACA was designed to address," said Peter Cunningham, a senior fellow and director of quantitative research at the Center for Studying Health System Change, in Washington, D.C.

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    Cunningham expressed concern that the researchers didn't note whether the cancer patients or the control participants had health insurance. "So we don't know how much of a difference having health insurance makes in terms of avoiding bankruptcy," he said. "It would have been nice to see what the impact of health insurance coverage is in being able to prevent bankruptcy and how many people lost their health insurance coverage because of their cancer diagnosis."

    What should people do to avoid the stress of money troubles when faced with a serious disease? "The study points to the value of having health insurance," Cunningham said.

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    More information

    Learn more about the cost of cancer treatment from the American Cancer Society.

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